2016 NHRA Rookie of the Year Cory Reed paced the field early in qualifying for the Route 66 Nationals in Chicago before ultimately bowing out in the first round of eliminations. Reed, teammate of three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ Angelle Sampey, wheeled his Team Liberty Victory machine to a speedy 6.96 at just short of 190 mph off the trailer to assume the top spot.

Reed and crew chiefs Ken Johnson and Chris Rivas maintained their consistency in the second session with a similar 6.97 at just 185 mph. Under different atmospheric conditions Saturday afternoon in the third of four qualifying sessions, Reed managed an incredibly consistent 6.97 at his best speed of the weekend, 190.62 mph, and followed with a steady 7-flat at 189 that evening.

Eliminations ended early when Reed, one of the quickest-reacting drivers in drag racing, was too quick for his own good. By less than one-hundredth of a second he fouled in the opening round of eliminations against recent nemesis L.E. Tonglet, who absolutely dominated the first half of the season, winning more races than all other riders combined.

“It didn’t even matter – no way I could have beaten him that time no matter what my reaction time,” said Reed of his -.009 red-light start. Tonglet, who also won the Chicago event in 2010, when he won the NHRA championship, and again in 2011, marched to a 6.830 at 196.36, crossing the finish line ahead of Reed even despite Reed’s ill-gotten early lead. “We’ll keep working at it and working at it and one of these days I won’t need to try to cut it so close on the Tree.”